THE BEST WAY TO SUPPORT MODERN TEAMS

In 2000, when this book, Research in Managing Groups & Teams: Technology (Volume 3) was published, Facebook didn’t exist. Teams used LotusNotes, email, stand-alone electronic discussion tools, and occasionally, video-conferencing and ad hoc file sharing. Blackberries didn’t hit the market until 2002. Technology was an expensive tool, generally controlled and managed by enterprise information technology (IT) departments. Team trainers, facilitators, and coaches all could help teams make decisions about the best ways of getting their work done. We could do a study, share the results, and expect the benefits to last for a while. I'm convinced this is no longer the case. We don't have time to do research about specific kinds of team work using specific kinds of technology. We have to support teams by teaching them how to do their own systems design. Think about the current environment. Internet bandwidth is cheap. As of today, 78% of North America uses the Internet, and world Internet usage has grown 480% since 2000. There are 155M U.S. Facebook users and 141M are between 18 and 64 years-old..  That is 141M working-age people in the U.S. who have some level of on-line collaboration experience.  Many of them are driving technology changes in their companies, rather than waiting for ideas from their IT departments.  This is called the “consumerization” of enterprise IT. Professors like myself and many other educators have often been in the position that these IT departments are in now.  We explain things that people inside organizations are already doing rather than helping people set up to make decisions about what to do. Given the pace of technology change, we will always be behind the curve unless we shift to helping teams make decisions about what technology tools and organizational practices to adopt in their teams and organizations.   I don’t think this was as critical an issue ten years ago when this book came out (Note: The cover is actually a mistake: I was the co-editor of this volume, which is part of a series onresearch in managing groups and teams -- edited by Margaret Neale and Elizabeth Mannix).  We have had 40 years with email: Ray Tomlison sent the first email in 1971, email gained popular acceptance in the early 90s. Forty years of stability is unlikely now. The pace of tool introductions has ramped up and with some high-end venture funds entirely focused on social media, I don’t see things slowing down. Yes, there will always be a need to help people understand how to use new technologies. But it is even more important to teach how to collaboratively mix people's knowledge, skills, and abilities with technology tools and organizational practices. I call this plugged-in management. I would love to hear of your examples where trainers have made this shift. Cases where trainers (formal or informal trainers, mentors, etc.) are teaching teams to help themselves, rather than trying to supply a turn-key approach. Please share your examples in the comments.